A few years back my OH and I were lucky enough to visit Kerela in Southern India. I thought while decidedly un-spiky it would make a nice interlude. For those who don't know it, Kerela is India Light; in that it is a very gentle introduction to India for those who are not sure they could cope with the more intense aspects found in other parts of the country.
We started in what are called the backwaters, an area of canals and small lakes a couple or hours outside the capital. Here everything revolves around the water. We stayed in a home stay (which is basically living with a local family) right on the back of a canal and spent much of our time lazing in hammocks watching the world go by. This area is famous for its house boats, which used to be used for transporting goods and now transport tourists.
Just downstream from us was the local ferry, which was simply a large canoe. One of the nicest things about this was that as part of the fare you had to help paddle. It was the school run for many kids and every morning you would see them lining up in their pristine school uniforms, and it always seemed to be the youngest or smallest that ended up having to row.
One of the joys of staying with a family (apart from the local food which was amazing) was being able to borrow their canoe and just join the locals on the water.
The canals over the last few years are having more and more problems with water hyacinths, while they look beautiful, they totally clog the canal and it is impossible to use them when they are like this.
Next it was Trivandrum the capital for a couple of days and the main thing here was the temples. Kerela is mainly christian but there are still a few large temples and where ever you find them there is always colour.
Then it was off to one of the national parks Periyar in the hope of seeing some wild animals. Actually it often felt like you were the exhibit as the monkeys would come and look in through your window.
One of the highlights was a boat trip out onto the lake and seeing a family of elephants swimming between two islands, I can't help thinking that they are snorkeling.
The lake was kind of ire with the dead trees protruding above the water.
We did go for a days trekking in the hope of seeing some more large animals, but sadly didn't see any. I suspect due to the fact that our guides carried their mobile phones and every couple of minutes a not so tuneful ring tone would be heard scaring away any animals. But the scenery was spectacular and it felt like at least we burnt off one or two of the calories we had piled on with all the food.
Next it was off up into the mountains and the tea plantations. Here we stayed in another home stay which was a lovely little house.
The owners run a small nursery, and they could not wait to proudly show off their rows or neatly arranged roses. These initially seemed to be their pride and joy and they seemed a little disappointed that I, as an Englishman, didn't appreciate them more. However their disappointed didn't last long as when they took us around to the back of the house we were greeted by a magnificent spice garden. It was a great opportunity to see what food a family usually grows and how some of the fruits and spices grow.
They also had a shade house which was stuffed full with Anthuriums of all colours. It seems that this was one of their true loves and they were producing darker and darker flowers. We spent quite some time looking around and talking about his plants.
Just down the road was little viewing point which was not a bad place to while away the last of the light.
During our stay we went out for a few walks through the tea plantations, with the distinctive rows of bushes interspersed with trees to provide some shade.
Finally it was back to the second town for a few days before flying out. We just happened to be there for the main festival at one of the temples and given my OHs love of elephants this was probably her highlight. We had seen banners up all around the area showing the temple elephants that would be there, and it seems that these elephants are considered real stars and even have a billing order. We spent a good few hours at the celebrations and it was loud, crowded and very friendly.
As it was getting late we ventured out to look for some food, and as usual in India were adopted by a lovely group who helped us with what all the food was, and I think had great fun as we very carefully attempted a few of the deep fried chillies!
You couldn't end without showing another photo of the amazing colours you find every where.
The only disappointment with the trip was the distinct lack of succulents everywhere we went, but when that is the only thing you have to complain about you know it has been an amazing holiday!